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Saturday, August 24, 2013


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Bribie Passage, Bongaree

Bribie Island is a sea-side paradise, less than an hours drive from the northern Suburbs of Brisbane.

Harrison and I spent a lazy day exploring the history of this wonderful place.

Kal-Ma-Kuta Memorial

One of the stories of Bribie Island that has intrigued me for ages is the story of Kal-Ma-Kuta, a Joondaburri aboriginal woman. I’ve often driven past an unusual memorial about her, built in the middle of the busy four-lane road as you approach the Bribie bridge on the road from Caboolture, near Turners Camp Road.

The memorial, erected in 1962, said that Kal-Ma-Kuta was the “Last of the Joondaburri Tribe”.

Turners Camp

Today we decided to stop and have a look, and try to answer a few questions about her.

We parked the car near the beach on Turners Camp Road, planning to walk back to the memorial and check it out, but discovered a newer memorial near the water…

Kal-Ma-Kuta Memorial

According to the plaque, this place was where Kal-Ma-Kuta (who was also known by the anglicized name “Alma”) and her husband, Fred Turner, built a house shortly after they married in 1872. They had eight children together, and lived together at this spot until Kal-Ma-Kuta’s death in 1897. The place became known as “Turners Camp” because of them.

This raised another question for me: If Kal-Ma-Kuta had eight children, why did the memorial say she was the last woman of her tribe?

I eventually found an old (2004) copy of Indigenous journal, “The Koori Mail”, which recounted a story that in the 1870′s oyster fisherman, Fred Turner, had a boating accident. He was rescued by a young aboriginal woman and eventually married her. Fred and Kal-Ma-Kuta had an oyster lease, and also were responsible for lighting the beacons on Toorbul Point (known today as Sandstone Point). The article also said that the Turner’s great grand-daughter, Daphne Kalmakuta Dux, had successfully lobbied local politicians to erect the newer memorial by the water.

Now 85 years old, Aunty Daphne, is an artist who paints stunning works depicting her aboriginal heritage.

Here’s a short video of her, filmed by students at Lismore TAFE in 2009…

I was able to speak with Aunty Daphne on the phone. I asked her about the “Last of her tribe” comment on the 1962 memorial. She told me, “I’m one one of Kal-Ma-Kuta’s descendants. I’m Joondaburri. So we can’t all have disappeared!” I’m glad she sorted that out.

'Day Dreaming' by Daphne May Kalmakuta Dux

You can see some of her amazing work at Serpentine Arts.

Fish Trap, Sandstone Point

The “Koori Mail” article said the Turners had a contract to maintain navigation beacons in the Pumicestone Passage at Toorbul Point. My friend Jason had told me the day before that if we had a look around Toorbul Point we might find the remains of an old Aboriginal fish trap. So Harrison and I decided to pop down the road and have a look around…

Fish Trap, Sandstone PointFish Trap, Sandstone Point

I asked a fisherman at the point if he knew about the Aboriginal fish trap, and he pointed to a spot a few metres away and said “Yes. It’s right there. But you won’t see much at the moment because it’s high tide”.

The whole idea with fish traps was to build a wall of rocks that would be submerged by the rising tide. Fish would swim into the enclosure, and be trapped as the tide fell. The successful fishermen would then help themselves to fresh seafood.

Before Eurpoean settlement, this place was a seafood lovers delight. What we know today as expensive Sydney Rock Oysters could be picked fresh from the rocks. Crabs, fish, dugong, turtles…. there was an abundance of good food for the local inhabitants.

Memorial, Sandstone Point

Memorial, Sandstone PointMemorial, Sandstone PointMemorial, Sandstone PointMemorial, Sandstone Point

This quartet of simple markers tells the story of three english ticket-of-leave convicts who, in 1823, were shipwrecked on nearby Moreton Island. Suffering a fierce storm off the coast of Newcastle, south of Sydney, they had drifted for several weeks before being washed ashore almost 1,000 km to the north. After being cared for by the Aboriginies on Moreton and Stradbroke Islands, they made a canoe, crossed Moreton Bay and came ashore at near present day Cleveland, south of Brisbane.

Finnegan, Parsons and Pamphlett thought they had been washed ashore south of Sydney, so started walking northwards in the hope of going home. But instead they crossed several rivers and eventually ended up living with the Joondaburri on Bribie Island.

The diet these three ex-convicts enjoyed on the islands of Moreton Bay was probably the most healthy and sumptious they had ever experienced in their short, unfortunate lives.

Toorbul Point Fish Trap

Harrison and I visited the Museum on Bribie Island, and found this photo, by Jon Rhodes, of the same Toorbul Point Fish Trap that we had been looking for earlier in the day. It might be an idea to go back to this point at low tide and see if the fish trap is easier to see.

Bribie Passage, Bongaree

Taking a break from history, we grabbed some morning tea and sat by the water to enjoy the views of the mountains in the distance.

Buckleys Hole

Bird HideBirdlife, Buckelsy Hole

We planned to head to the southern tip of the island to check out a bit more local history. But before doing that, we wanted to have a look at “Buckley’s Hole”. This is an artificial lagoon which was created in the 1980′s when the council built a sand wall across the mouth of a slow-running creek to deter mosquitoes from breeding. The lagoon is an important habitat for a large number of different bird species. To allow visitors to observe the birds, there’s a small “hide” overlooking the lagoon.

Swallow Nest

We spent a while quietly watching the wildlife from the hide. A few swallows kept flying in and out of the windows. Keen-eyed Harrison realized there were several nests inside the hide on the wall immediately behind us. We were delighted to find some beautiful speckled eggs inside.

Buckley’s Hole is also important culturally. There are a couple of shell middens nearby, formed over centuries as Aborigines gathered to enjoy shell-fish and then discard the shells.

Norfolk in the Pumicestone River 1799

It’s also close to the first documented encounter between Europeans and Aborigines at “Skirmish Point” – as depicted in this painting by Don Brabden that we saw in the Bribie Museum. It shows Matthew Flinders rowing ashore from his sloop, The Norfolk.

Funnily enough, this is also the same point where our three ship wrecked ex-convicts: Finnegan, Parsons and Pamphlet, were found almost 24 years later by an astonished John Oxley in 1823.

Looking at Moreton Island

Harrison and I made our way down to Skirmish Point. There were no old wooden sloops there today – just a flotilla of modern pleasure craft, and a small cruise ship in the distance.

Red Beach

What a beautiful part of the world!

WW2 Bunker, Bribie Island

Eventually we made our way across to the eastern side of the island, or “surf side” as the locals call it.

It didn’t take us long to find our final historical landmark – the old World War II bunkers in the sand dunes behind the beach. These bunkers had a couple of 155mm guns mounted on them and were capable of hitting a target 30km away. The shipping channel at this point comes in closely to the coastline, so it was an ideal point for the fortifications. The bunkers were also used to monitor the channel for submarines, and were capable of detonating submerged mines if intruders were detected.


From this spot on Bribie, Moreton Island looks quite close.

Seaside Drink

History lesson over, we decided to stop at a cafe in Woorim for a late lunch before heading home.

Today’s trip was only 116km in the car, with about 3 hours exploring on foot, and 2.5 hours driving.

Thanks Harrison for a fun day of exploration!

Historical notes:

1. People more qualified than I suggest that the Joondaburri tribe are part of the Gubbi Gubbi (or Kabi) Aboriginal people.

2. In referring to Kal-Ma-Kuta as the “Last of the Joondaburri Tribe”, the authors of the 1962 monument were probably alluding to the sad fact that most of the tribe had desserted Bribie Island by about 1880. Habitat destruction by European settlers had rendered the island unable to provide enough food for the indigenous population.

3. Aboriginal freedom fighter, Dundalli, was adopted by the Joondaburri tribe, and was involved in some gruesome conflicts with European settlers which eventually resulted in his execution in 1852.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Old Mills

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Brondons Mill, Bellthorpe Forest

Today’s adventure had a couple of objectives. I wanted to close a gap in my map in Bellthorpe Forest. It was only about 2km in length, so I thought it would be achievable on foot, which would suit my current situation of not being able to ride a bike.

The other objective was to spend some time at Mount Mee an enjoy some of the amazing views.



I started the day at the Stoney Creek day-use area at the bottom of the range in Bellthorpe National Park. Stoney Creek runs down the southern slopes of the Conondale Range before eventually flowing into the Stanley River.



I thought this might be a great spot to re-visit in the heat of summer. The water in the rock pool here is bright blue. It looks like it would be a delicious place to cool off in the warmer months.



From Stoney Creek I slowly made my way up the mountain to Bellthorpe. The road is steep and twisty, so I took my time, enjoying the view.


Brandons Road, Bellthorpe Forest

At this point I parked the car, and set off on my short hobble/hike to the sawmill.


Logging StumpLogging Stump

There’s plenty of evidence of logging from bygone days in this forest – you just need to know where to look. When trees were cut by hand, loggers would cut a square recess in a tree’s trunk which would then hold a wooden plank. They’d stand on the plank and either chop the tree, or cut another recess for yet another plank. You can still see the square holes in old tree stumps where the recess was cut by the logger.


Brondons Mill, Bellthorpe Forest

Brondons Mill, Bellthorpe Forest

The ruins of the sawmill show evidence of an old Gantry, crane, band saw and building foundations. They’re slowly being reclaimed by nature in its slow-motion revenge over the rusting machinery. The mill is a reminder that, like many other national parks and state forests, this place was once heavily logged.


Butcher Bird

Butcher Bird

As I sat on an old log, munching on my chocolate bar, a butcher bird found me, and sat down next to me – less than half a metre from me. I could have reached out and touched him if I wanted. He just looked at me as I ate, and made a pathetic chicken-like sound that was unmistakable. He wanted what I had…


Butcher Bird

…so I obliged. He was very grateful as his mate looked on enviously from a safe distance on an adjacent log. I didn’t know butcher birds like chocolate. I think perhaps they like whatever it is anyone else is eating – regardless of what they’re eating.


Mossy Fence

Mossy Fence

Nature seems to be taking over other things too. The lichen is growing very happily on the palings of this this cattle yard fence.


Livingstone Hill

Livingstone Hill

After I arrived back at the car, I slowly drove eastwards along the top of the range, over “Livingstone Hill” and through the small community of Bellthorpe. In the city below, the temperatures were quite balmy. But up here in the mountains, the breeze still had a pleasant chill to it. I parked a the car by the road and grabbed a few wild lemons growing by the side of the road. I’m not totally convinced Liz likes me bringing this sort of thing home as a “gift”, but it does my ego good to think that in some way I’m still playing the role of a primitive hunter gatherer.


Glasshouse Mountains

Bellthorpe Range Road offers some amazing views of the Glasshouse Mountains as it slowly winds back down the mountain.


Delaneys Creek

After a quick lunch in Woodford I made my way up to Mount Mee via Delaney’s Creek. On the way up, I stopped and had a bit of a look towards the north, and could make out the Conondale Range in the distance. It’s always fun to look back and get an idea of where you’ve been.


Mt Mee Lookout

Mt Mee Lookout

I made a quick stop at the Mount Mee lookout to soak in the views. Lots of other people had the same idea. What a glorious day – the views went on forever.


Somerset Lookout

Eventually I made my way to Somerset Lookout near the Gantry at Mount Mee. Like Bellthorpe, Mount Mee also has a history of logging, as is evidenced by the huge gantry at the day use area. As I enjoyed the vista before me, I thought the last thing you’d want to do is log it.


Hash House Harriers

I was fortunate to meet up with some happy hikers from the Hash House Harriers – a social group of runners. They describe themselves as drinkers with a running problem. I was delighted to meet up with such a cheerful group of people. Most people you meet in the bush are happy. I’m not sure if this means the bush makes you happy, or that it’s only happy people who decide they’d like to go hiking in the bush.



One of the hikers, “Beach Ball” (Harriers call each other by nick names rather than given names), decided he’d rather hitch a lift with me back to the gantry, instead of walking back. I was grateful for the company. He was grateful for the lift and gave me a beer when we got back. Cheers, Beach Ball!


The walk to Brandon’s mill was only 2.3km but it took me 1 hour 18 minutes including stops for photos. If you were doing this ride on a mountain bike, I’d suggest starting at either Woodford, or the Stoney Creek Day use area. You might get an idea for a route from this ride I did a couple of years back – but be prepared for a long climb up Stoney Creek Road. If you do this ride, I suggest you take the short detour to Brandon’s mill before going down Bellthorpe West Road. It would only add 10 or 15 minutes to your ride, but it’s a fascinating place.

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The drive was just over 200km with some great lookouts. If you were lookiing for some places to take the family for a Sunday drive, some of these spots would be ideal.